Diego Valeri and Gio Savarese - Portland Timbers
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Gio Savarese: MLS has become a "priority league" for South Americans

A former Venezuelan international and exciting goalscorer in MLS, Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese knows a thing or two about the path from South America to the United States. 

But still, it's different now from when he made his MLS debut in the league's debut season in 1996, scoring the MetroStars' first goal and quickly becoming a fan favorite for the club.

“It’s not only now, we remember all the way to the beginning of MLS the influence of players from South America, how important the players have been to this league," Savarese said on a media conference call on Monday. "The different components they bring — quality, competitive, living soccer all their life. It’s a good thing to be able to bring to the league."

These days, MLS has continued to grow in quality and reputation.

"Now, you see more people looking at MLS as a priority league," Savarese said. "Maybe in the past they had other ideas, but I think it’s a great evolution to the league and the players that have come. Credit to the organizations and the players that have been a part of MLS.”

Savarese's Timbers has been an example of that, long before he was appointed head coach after last season. Diego Valeri (Argentina) and Diego Chara (Colombia) helped lead the club to MLS Cup glory in 2015 as well as regular trips to the playoffs, spending the prime of their careers becoming premier players in the league. 

"The more MLS has evolved and grown, not only can we bring a specific type of South Americans, now we bring a different diversity," Savarese said. "From more experienced to young, different arrays of players that can contribute to the league. I think the eyes of South America have always been in this league, but I think there’s more credibility. Every year MLS earns more credibility in South America." 

MLS's credibility in South America doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. On Saturday, it won't be just a large number of South American stars on the pitch, but on both touchlines as well with Atlanta United's Tata Martino going against Savarese.

And so, no matter who triumphs in the MLS Cup final (Sat. 8 pm ET | FOX, UniMas, TSN, TVAS), one thing is for sure: 2018 will see the first South American manager win the title. 

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